Share now!

Media Workers Association of South Africa press statement 26 October 2017

The SABC remains of critical importance in the lives of millions of South Africans, the majority of whom, in their dehumanizing poverty and abject squalor, rely solely on the SABC for their information, education and entertainment needs. 

In the current socio-political and economic environment, an effective public broadcaster is not a ‘nice-to-have’ but a necessity at least as in comparison with the South African Airways. It fulfills a far more seminal public mandate and should be supported.

MWASA cautiously welcomes the appointment of the seventh Communications Minister in as many years and celebrates the rivetting judgement by Judge Elias Matojane in the Gauteng High Court to correct deliberately skewed power relations between the Minister and the SABC Board. The clarity on the role and powers of the Board in exercising their collective duty as the accounting authority in matters relating to the SABC is very welcome.

MWASA also welcomes the appointment of the non-executive board of directors following the demise of the Prof Maguvhe-led team. We are concerned however by the built-in potential disruption relating to the possible departure of the designated Deputy Chairperson, Ms Febe Potgieter-Gqubule should she accept nomination to the leadership of the ANC in a few weeks from now.

Our expectations for the incoming SABC Board include:

  1. the urgent attendance to the development of a comprehensive, sustainable and futuristic turn-around strategy to transform the SABC from the legacy broadcasting entity it is today to one re-engineered for long-term development on the back of technological innovations; 
  2. to develop and to preside over, across the entire SABC, a new paradigm removed from the fixation with pedantic preoccupation of micro-managing and tendering after the failures of the past administrations; 
  3. to determine the funding model for the SABC starting with plugging the many orifices through which the fiscus of the SABC is profusely haemorraging. In 2009 the SABC was granted a R1.47bn Government Loan Guarantee and is said to be asking for at least double that, R3bn seven years later with no tangible benefit realised nor promised in return; and d) to take the employees of the SABC into confidence and to ensure joint ownership of all developmental programmes with the staff of the SABC. 

MWASA is concerned by the failure of the unions representing SABC staff to act jointly on matters affecting staff. This opens up old wounds sustained during the atrocious and disastrous versions of Ministerial, SABC Board and SABC Group Executive administrations since 2010. 

MWASA is deeply concerned by growing partisan calls for industrial action where the remedy for the disputes may lie outside and exclude striking. A call by MWASA to harmonize perspectives on way forward relating to the proposed strike was shot down and thus far there has been no response to numerous communications from the leaders of the purportedly pending and imminent strike action.

It is conceivable that there may be other sinister and cynical interests at play here. There may well be several ambitious individuals who wish to take advantage of the vacuous spaces that resulted from the egregious administration of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his cohorts. There may be individuals who have their sights on improving their own employment standing by fanning the fires of manufactured discontent.

It is equally plausible that there may be individuals and groups seeking to launder and whitewash their own complicity and involvement in the disastrous wrecking and Hlaudesque plunder of the SABC under this recently dislodged incumbency.

The advent of the Special Investigations Unit at the SABC must continue to create grave discomfort for those that have failed to act with due care towards the SABC, its business interests and towards its staff. 

There may be some opportunism among some people and groups currently inside the SABC including some loosely termed “enforcers” and so on. They may well be at all levels of the employees of the SABC including some prominent amongst the union cohort. It is fact that some shop stewards were elevated to the supervisory salary scale code 300 in tandem with the meteoric rise of Hlaudi Motsoeneng and there are several more individuals who accessed promotions simply because they shared the common denominator of an absent matric qualification with Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the time.

It is amply obvious that the SABC is in a bad state financially, operationally, in terms of consumer and business confidence. It is equally obvious that the national attempt under foot right now is to stabilize the Ministry, the Board and we are hoping soon, the appointment of capable, qualified, professional and principled members of the Group Executive.

And so the call for a strike is curious under these circumstances noting in particular the growing incapacity of the national purse to fund expenditure.

There is no autommatic right to a salary increment.

A demand for a salary increment must not be entertained simply because it is habit to demand and receive.

A demand must be justified, justifiable, affordable on a proven sustainability basis going forward. SABC employees have repeatedly received above inflation increases primarily because the reckless leadership of recent had used “organised labour” on a rent-a-crowd-basis and dispensed with crumbs of patronage which were recieved without question.

There were “sweeteners”, “bonuses” and “commissions” that were offered and received without further thought beyond breaking into song and cheer in praise of the “Big Man”.

In truth, the SABC must transform and must restructure in a manner to embrace the challenges of the advancing new media environment. The new DTT deadline of December 2018 will find the SABC so obnoxiously obsolete that there will be no seamless transformation.

Instead of manufactured discontent, workers should be less inclined to focus on immediate gratification and should rather pay attention to attending to minomizing the mushrooming risk to security of employment.

The SABC is over-staffed with duplications of roles and positions as well as rediculously high levels of underemployment. Whilst there are multitudes of dedicated, productive and diligent workers across the employ of the SABC there are pockets of hundreds of workers simply collecting a cheque at month-end in exchange for no tangible or meaningful output.

There is currently NO applicable performance management system despite a well staffed Human Resources department and highly paid staff in populating offices across the SABC offices in all 9 provinces with the bulk huddled together in Johannesburg. There in no measure or control of performance. This reality cannot be ignored or swept into oblivion.

The failure by the social partners, the SABC and its Unions to repurpose and recalibrate the skills sets of the staff through the effective reliance on the combined provisions of employment law including the Skills Development, Employment Equity and Labour Relations Acts will cost heavily going forward.

As the new SABC Board goes into an induction process this weekend, we are concerned about the quality of the content and information to be relayed and shared as we intuitively do not trust the SABC and that with good reason. We are looking forward to meeting with the new Board as a matter of urgency and then to share our experiences, hopes, aspirations and fears. 


MWASA remains committed to supporting all efforts to build and strengthen the public broadcaster.